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Published: March 7th 2015
A Proton (Malaysian car brand) Waja with 600,000 km on it. Definitely a car with personality and he did a great job taking us on a 1,600 km ride around the Southern part of Malaysia.
In mid-February my friend Christiane from Germany came to visit me. Of course there was a lot to see and do for her in Singapore, but we decided to go on a one-week road trip in the Southwest of Malaysia. The week after Chinese New Year was the perfect time for this because there would not be a lot going on in the office. However, it also turned out to be very difficult to rent a car for the trip. I wanted to rent a car in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and not in Singapore. Driving with a rental car from Singapore through Malaysia is not such a good idea, the risk of the car being stolen is too high. However, in JB most cars are available only upon request. I tried various websites, asked my travel agent in Germany and my Malaysian colleagues for help. However, either the cars were not available or too expensive or they came without insurance or with too much co-payment. Eventually I managed to get a car via a contact I had gotten from my Singaporean colleague, and I only got it because someone else cancelled their booking. Lucky me!
Christiane and I left my
One of the main attractions in Melaka. Shops that sell all kinds of neat stuff on both sides of the street and of course there are restaurants and cafés. Super busy street!
place at 7 am on 20th February because we wanted to be at the border early so that immigration would not take too long. Things went smoothly and at 8:30 the woman we had rented the car from came to pick us up at JB Sentral. Taking over the car was extremely stressful. We conducted all the formalities at the lady’s house where there were other customers, two young children who were noisy and agitated, several phones ringing at the same time with nerve-wrecking ring tones, and the lady herself being hectic and explaining a million things at a time. We were both glad when we were finally sitting in the car on our way towards Melaka.
Talking about the car. The car was an old Proton Waja. It had over 600,000 kilometres on it and it was one of the cars where the owner has to tell you what you need to do and what you must not do before you can drive the car. It was kind of blind on one eye, had scratches everywhere, the seats were shabby, and when you failed to slam the doors shut properly the warning flashers and several other warning lights
House on Jonker Street
Dating from the period of colonialisation, nicely decorated and painted.
in the front console started flashing like crazy. But I love old cars with a personality and I started liking this one after a few kilometres already. Christiane and I called him “Rusty”, after the old steam engine in the musical “Starlight Express”.
Melaka is only a little over 200 kilometres from JB. However, due to the heavy traffic it took us about four hours to get close to the city and then another hour to make our way from the highway to our hotel in the city centre. The next challenge was parking the car. When we arrived at the hotel I parked it somewhere along the road and after checking in I wanted to move it to the hotel car park. However, the entrance to this car park was about 50 metres behind where I had left the car. The road was a two-lane one-way road. Driving around the block would have taken me at least half an hour due to the traffic jam in the city, so I backed up the car against two lanes of oncoming traffic until I had reached the car park entrance 50 metres behind me and then crossed both lanes in
Another house on Jonker Street
Very colourful. All the houses have a slightly different style.
order to get into the car park. Phew! I was glad that I did not have to do any more driving for the rest of the day.
We started exploring the city with a little walk and afterwards went on a river cruise. The city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally it was a Malay trading centre and its history starts in the late 14th century, when it was a Sultanate. During colonial times it was first occupied by the Portuguese, afterwards by the Dutch, and then by the British. The colonial influence is visible everywhere, and in my opinion the Dutch influence is strongest. Many of the houses somehow reminded me of the Netherlands, and there are still a few Dutch names around. For example, the main shopping street is called “Jonker Street”. It has a lot of shops that sell all kinds of neat things. There is an administrative building that is called “Stadthuis”. The castle A Famosa dates from the Portuguese occupation, but it is in ruins nowadays. There are also quite a few mosques and Chinese or Buddhist temples. The city has a wonderful atmosphere. What I found funny were the bike rickshaws: They
Masjid Kampung Kling
A mosque not far from Jonker Street. But altough the street is closeby, the mosque is peaceful and quiet. In the foreground is a little cemetery.
were all really kitschy, decorated with colourful toys and flowers, and many of them in “Hello Kitty” or “Frozen” style. Many of them played music during the ride.
After our river cruise Christiane and I had dinner and sat outside with the view of the river. Then we had an early night so that we would be ready for the next day and for exploring the city.
The next morning we turned up for a super late breakfast. In fact they were already tidying up the breakfast buffet and at first they were not happy with us coming so late. But ultimately they even brought us some extra fruit and sweets in addition to our toast and coffee.
After breakfast we walked down Jonker Street. There are many shops that sell kitsch, but there are also quite a few shops where you can buy some creative and artistic stuff. Nothing that is really of use, but pretty. We made a little stopover in Masjid Kampung Kling, a mosque that has some elements of a Buddhist pagoda, with its minaret that in fact does look like a pagoda. We sat in the mosque for a while and enjoyed
Cheng Hoon Teng Temple
A Buddhist temple not far from Jonker Street. Here we listened to chanting monks for a while.
the quiet and peaceful atmosphere before heading back into the busy streets. Then our walk took us into several Chinese temples. In one of the newer ones, Chin San Kong Temple, a guy who was sitting in front of it with his friends explained the purpose of the temple (exorcism!) and showed us pictures of a trip to Guangzhou province, the area where there is something like their spiritual centre. It was very nice of him to show us around. He was also eager to learn more about where we were from and how we found it in Malaysia. I found this in the country a lot: People are always super interested in giving you a good impression of their country and they want to learn more about where others come from and what it is like there. We visited a few more temples and even listened to some Buddhist chanting in one of them for a while.
After a late lunch we walked along the river past an old amusement park that does not seem to be in use any more and all the way to Kampung Morten, an area where there are houses in traditional Malay architecture.
... where we went for our river cruise.
Maybe the most well-known one is Villa Sentosa. It is not officially a museum, but when the owners are there they will show visitors around the traditional house. However, when we got there nobody was around. So we walked past King’s Well and another Chinese temple back towards the city centre. When we got tired we caught a fancy Hello Kitty bike rickshaw that took us to the old A Famosa castle. The castle is located on top of a hill so that you have a nice view of the city as well. However, it is in ruins, so there are only a few walls and one gate left. After visiting the castle we returned to our hotel. Christiane went for a walk towards the sea, but I preferred to sit on the balcony of our hotel room and enjoy the view of the river and watch the people walking past. When Christiane got back we decided to have another early night because we wanted to start off to Cameron Highlands early the next morning. But that will be the next story!
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